Here’s How To Support California Farmworkers On Thanksgiving As They Continue To Work Through Bad Air Conditions
The wildfires in California have ravaged the state. An estimated 699 people remain missing, and so far 79 people have died. The fires are not yet contained. In Southern California, as of today, the Woolsey Fire that affected parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties is 96 percent contained. In Northern California, the Camp Fire, which is where more than 60 people died, is as of now, 70 percent contained.
The California wildfires have led to the worst air quality in the world affecting millions of people.
The fires started between November 8 and 12. Farmworkers in the state have had no other choice but to continue working. Despite the unhealthy air conditions photos have circulated on social media of farmworkers harvesting produce as the smoky air lingers above them.
The United Farmworkers (UFW) has said that some farmworkers, that are protected by their union, have been told not to work because operations have shut down due to unhealthy air quality.
“Some companies where farmworkers are protected by United Farm Workers contracts and that are affected by both the Camp and Woolsey fires have shut down operations when air quality got especially hazardous,” UFW said on Facebook.
However, because not all are protected under UFW, people have been helping out by distributing face masks to workers.
“We set a time to meet once we started seeing the sky. The air was getting worse and worse,” Aracely Preciado, from the organization Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), told Pacific Standard magazine. “We sent out a call on social media, and students and other community members began showing up.”
A 22-year-old teacher also took it upon herself to pass out masks in Lodi, California.
“I don’t have the emotional capacity to go into detail about this just yet because I just got home and feel really tired, but today I spent my day in Lodi just 1 1/2 hrs away from San Jose to hand out masks to farmworkers in rural communities,” Paulina Cortes said, according to KTVU anchor Frank Somerville. “Find a way to give to a community who needs help. Thank you to everyone who is supporting me through donations. I drove through San Jose and all the way to Salinas to find the amount of masks I needed. This is important. The story here isn’t that I handed out masks, it’s that there are hundreds of people who are working in HAZARDOUS environments with NO protection. And no one even knows about it.”
Now that Thanksgiving is here, farmworkers need help and support more than ever.
"All of us, especially those who are dedicated to fixing societal gaps, need to do better to rectify the ways in which we are participating in an unjust food system."
— NETWORK (@NETWORKLobby) November 19, 2018
As we figure out grocery lists and what to serve on Thanksgiving, UFW recommends purchasing from a selective group of goods in order to best support farmworkers.
It’s important to note that, according to the Washington Post, there’s 2 million to 3 million farmworkers in the country, but the UFW only represents 10,000 people.
Certain produce companies give UFW union members good worker benefits.
Celebrate the Holidays with UFW union products! The holiday season is about to start and that often means meals with…
Not all farmworkers have protections. The more people purchase from a select group of companies, the more inclined they will be to give back to their employees. They’ve made it really easy to know which companies to support. Click here for more information.
A group of school children have also reached out to farmworkers just to say “thank you for your hard work.”
UFW reports that elementary kids from Oregon and Washington made Thanksgiving cards to let their local farm workers “know how much they appreciate the hard work they put into producing the food that we will be enjoying this Thanksgiving!”
So if you can’t pass out masks or send out Thanksgiving thank you cards, here’s other options for you.
To help the UFW and their union members, click here.
For more information on the Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice and support the work they do, click here.
To educate yourself about the National Center for Farmworker Health, click here.
This Thanksgiving as we partake on amazing foods, let’s take time to reflect on where the food is coming from because who knows how much longer farmworkers will be around.